Tyler Forness of USA Today’s Vikings Wire examined a handful of teams that make the most sense as trade partners for Hunter. Falling inside the top three were the San Francisco 49ers, who drafted Trey Lance with the No. 3 overall pick two seasons ago. However, after the emergence of seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy and the signing of quarterback Sam Darnold, Lance has become a luxury the Niners no longer need.
Minnesota kicked the tires on a deal for Lance at the NFL Combine in March, and if the Vikings are serious about moving Hunter, it’s hard to argue that there is a better return out there than a 23-year-old quarterback with a modern run-pass skill set, high upside, and a desire to get on the field and prove himself.
“This is a really interesting case. The 49ers have a tremendous roster primed to make a Super Bowl. Heck, they almost did it with a third-string quarterback last season in Brock Purdy,” Forness wrote on Wednesday, June 7. “While they have Nick Bosa and a talented interior with Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead, adding Hunter as a mercenary for this season while also being a long-term option is a very intriguing prospect for them. They could also potentially include Trey Lance in a deal, if they so choose.”
Vikings Can Make Move for Long-Term Future by Trading for Trey Lance
The Vikings are in the middle of a low-key rebuild after releasing a handful of prominent veterans over the offseason, including wide receiver Adam Thielen and linebacker Eric Kendricks. Minnesota is also making a push to get younger, trading pass rusher Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns and letting cornerback Patrick Peterson bolt for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team also cut four-time Pro-Bowl running back Dalvin Cook on Thursday.
Minnesota can still claim it is playing for both now and the future, after retaining Kirk Cousins for the 2023 season. However, moving Hunter in exchange for Lance would probably slam the door on the idea that the Vikings are trying to win big in the immediate. And, for the record, that’s okay.
The franchise needs to consider the historic contract to which it will almost certainly sign wide receiver Justin Jefferson in the near future. Tight end T.J. Hockenson, who the Vikings acquired ahead of the 2022 trade deadline, is also going to need a new deal, which is likely to come in on the high end of annual average value at the position.
The decision to draft wideout Jordan Addison and elevate running back Alexander Mattison into a starting role has reset the Vikings’ timeline on offense, one that doesn’t appear to include Cousins under center long-term. Lance, however, fits that timeline perfectly.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell has the perfect disposition and areas of expertise to develop a young quarterback, while the Vikings offer the perfect scenario in 2023 to bring in a young player at the position. Lance can play and learn behind Cousins for a season, then step into a starting role in 2024.
Trey Lance’s Contract Shouldn’t be Problematic for Vikings in 2023 After Release of Dalvin Cook
Lance has two years remaining on his four-year, $34.1 million rookie contract. Should the Vikings trade for him this season, the team will have the choice to pick up his fifth-year option for 2025 next spring.
The quarterback will carry a salary cap hit of $9.3 million this year, though Minnesota can easily absorb that now. The franchise will have well over $18 million in cap space at its disposal once the $9 million in savings from the release of Cook is added to the books.
Lance has some experience at the professional level, appearing in six games and earning two starts during his rookie season. He also started the first two contests of 2022 before suffering a season-ending ankle injury against the Chicago Bears in Week 2.
For his career, Lance has completed 54.9% of his passes on 102 attempts. He has thrown for 797 yards and five touchdowns compared to three interceptions. He has also rushed the ball 54 times for 235 yards and one score, per Pro Football Reference.